Category: Uncategorized

The Year of the Ram

Hello world. I think it’s time for a blog post! It’s been a couple weeks…my bad.

Well we are back to the grind here in Taipei. We had an amazing month traveling but now it’s back to reality. Sarah and I are both teaching our same classes from last semester, although each class has gone up a level. Each class has gained a kid or two, which is always nice as it gives each class a new flavor. We’re having fun teaching our kids to play battleship, “Simon says” AKA “Teacher says,” and drawing my little first grader’s all-time favorite movie character….Elsa. Sharon is usually quite the handful and is constantly pushing my buttons, but when she saw that I was drawing Elsa….her face lit up and a HUGE smile glowed across her face. Can’t beat that.

It’s been nice to just get back into a routine. We were in a nasty funk before we went home of staying up really late and waking up really late. We were feeling like bumps on a log and we weren’t getting anything accomplished. Now that we’re back, we’ve made it a point to get to bed at a decent time and wake up on time…can you say “We’re getting older?” WOW. I’ve got a rekindled vengeance to really hit my Chinese studies hard, while Sarah continues to explore Taipei by foot. We make it a point to try a new restaurant every week, and also hang up the ENO hammock at Bihu Lake to chill.

Most importantly, we’ve been spending time in our Bible. We’ve decided to read through the Bible together as we both, shamefully, have never truly read it from cover to cover. Already, as we make our way through it, we have gained and learned so much that we are able to apply to our lives here in Taipei. We are excited to continue reading and growing in our faith together.

Late February and early March is an insane time to be in Taiwan. Let’s just say it sounds like the city is blowing up from all the fireworks and firecrackers going off literally 24 hours a day. It’s Chinese New Year!!! Chinese New Year is by far the largest and most important festival celebrated by the Chinese people around the globe. Shops and tourist attractions usually shut down for the first couple days of the new year and people spend their time visiting family and join in on the celebrations. If you ask our students what their favorite part of the Chinese New Year is, they would say the “紅包” or “red envelope.” The red envelopes symbolize good luck and are supposed to ward off evil spirits, but most importantly for the kids, they are usually filled with a stack of money! The red envelopes are usually given to the kids by their families and are put into a savings account. Luckily for my student, Julian, he was pretty pumped when his Mom let him buy a PS3!

One of the largest festivals in Taiwan during the Chinese New Year is the Pingxi Lantern Festival. Tradition has it that the sky lanterns were invented to deliver military information from beacon tower to beacon tower during times of war. Now, the sky lanterns are released into the air as prayers to the ancestors for the coming year. The lanterns reflect the hopes and dreams of the people as they slowly float into the sky. During this time of year, the tiny town of Pingxi is overwhelmed with visitors strolling the old street lanes munching on famous garlic Taiwanese sausage, and scribbling their wishes and goals on the countless lanterns. Sarah and I also joined in on the festivities and bought ourselves a red lantern and wrote our dreams and wishes on it and launched it into the sky.

Nightfall. It truly is a spectacle to behold once in your lifetime. The dreams and wishes have been written, and the sky lanterns are ready to be lit and float off into the sky. At last, just over the tips of the trees, we were able to experience hundreds upon hundreds of lanterns rising into the night sky. It was magnificent! The lanterns slowly dispersed and the whole sky was glowing with different colors. It was beautiful and such a great way to soak in the Chinese culture.

It’s the year of the Ram or Goat (can be translated a few different ways). On the last day of the Chinese New Year, Sarah and I, along with the whole city of Taipei, went to Yuanshan Park to look at the bizarrely decorated park. The park is decorated according to whichever zodiac sign is for the new year. As I said, it is the year of the Ram. The park is a showcase for not only the Ram, but historic legends, fairy-tale characters, and party animals all lit up with christmas lights. The centerpiece for this year’s festival was a 40 foot tall goat on a mountaintop, but my favorite was the giant robot!

I can just see it…next Christmas…a huge, lit up robot in the middle of my front yard as a part of my Christmas light display! What do you think Sarah?!

We ended the week with a great night out with great friends. For all you manbun haters, I got a haircut.

Until next time.

Kyle and Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Rapids to Taip….Tokyo!

Wow. What a crazy awesome past 3 weeks. Last time I wrote we were just getting back to Taipei from Cambodia and preparing to head out the next day for Grand Rapids. Can’t believe how fast the time flew by as I sit on my couch in Taipei.

Grand Rapids. We missed you. When we signed up for teaching English in Taiwan we knew we we would be coming back to Michigan for a very special occasion. My best friend Jord was getting married to the girl of his dreams, Jodi….and I was one of the best men. Definitely couldn’t miss that! We celebrated the night away and couldn’t be more happy for them!

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We were excited to go home. The day we left to go back to the USA was almost exactly the halfway point of our year abroad. We were super pumped to see our families and catch up with our friends. It was an incredibly busy 2 weeks. There was rarely a moment that wasn’t filled with meeting someone for a coffee or dinner, but it was rejuvenating. Ahhh….a home cooked meal, communicating in English, chips n’ cheese, Marshalls (Sarah), tap water, Meijer, and Marge’s donuts. What a great couple weeks spent seeing the people we’ve missed and eating the food we’ve craved!

I’ve been fascinated with Japan ever since I heard stories from my friend Marcus, wiki’d the crap out of every city in Japan, and “caught them all” in my all time favorite gameboy game, Pokemon. I had been dying to get to the epitome of this awesomeness. Tokyo. I had been calling Delta Airlines daily for 2 weeks trying to figure out how we could stop in Tokyo on the way back to Taipei without paying a fortune…it just wasn’t happening. I had tried and tried and there was nothing else I could have done at that point.

Then… we landed in Tokyo Narita International Airport for our 1 hour layover in Tokyo on our way back to Taipei.

“Let’s just see what they say, Sarah!!” I said to Sarah as we were hustling to our next gate. “You never know. Maybe they can just pull our bags and we can walk out the doors.”

So that’s exactly what we did. Delta pulled some strings, got our bags, and cancelled the last leg of our trip back….and it was 7pm….after a 14 hour flight….with absolutely no idea what to do or where to go. On top of that, we didn’t have the appropriate shoes or our camera along… got to love a last minute trip to Tokyo 🙂

We are constantly reminded that Asia is such a diverse continent and no two places are even remotely the same. I know all of you Asia N00bs think that China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan are all pretty much the same, am I right? Wrong! I thought the same thing…and going to Japan proved us wrong yet again. I had never experienced a city so magnificently huge and brilliantly neoned out as the hyper charged capital of Japan. From the window of the airplane, Tokyo looked like any other city, but once we delved further, we came to realize Tokyo was unique. Tokyo was ridiculous in every way possible. We freaking loved it.

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The moment we arrived in Ikebukuro, Tokyo via the sleek N’EX express train, we knew it was going to be a memorable week. Tokyo felt different. We felt like ants in a concrete jungle that was actually eerily quiet for being the second largest city in the world. It took us a minute to figure out why it was so quiet….no scooters! We had been so accustomed to the perpetual buzz and roar of the countless scooters in Taipei. It was weird! We stayed one night in Ikebukuro only because we had no idea where to go. Turned out, Ikebukuro is the second busiest subway station in the world and houses many walking streets. We ditched out packs and immediately searched out a sushi joint. We ate sushi on a daily basis and it was absolutely deeeelicious.

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We moved on from Ikebukuro to probably the most famous district in Tokyo, Shinjuku. We rented a tiny apartment 15 minutes walk from the center of Shinjuku as our headquarters. During the days we munched on Japanese crepes while strolling through Takeshita street in the Cosplay (costume play) haven of Harajuku, and admired ancient Japan at the Shinto Shrine of Meiji, Asakusa, and the Kan’ei-ji pagoda.

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As you probably know by now, I LOVE the in-your-face, city lights of an Asian city. I thought we had it good living in Taipei as far as lights go, but Taipei has nothing on Shinjuku. It was visual overload. Massive buildings with scrolling LED screens, neon infused sings, and 5 stories high TV’s littered every single building. Every corner there were psychedelic signs displaying advertisements for the tastiest ramen or billboards urging you to try snagging an anime stuffed character at the arcade. I can’t describe it. You truly need to see it to believe it!

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A trip to Tokyo is not complete without a trip to the anime/manga crazed district of Akihabara. Neither of us are into reading anime or collect action figures displaying strange and sometimes inappropriate gestures, but we are interested in feeling out of place and experiencing new things. Akihabara just bleeds SEGA, Sailormoon, Dragonball Z, and every other anime material that my very, very inexperienced anime cultured-self could tell you. It was bizarre, but in a new experience kind of way. We thoroughly enjoyed soaking up this element of the Japanese culture.

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If you haven’t already booked your flight to Tokyo to see the city lights, here are our last pictures of the sensational lights at Shibuya and it’s famous crosswalk.

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We are now back in Taipei anticipating the start of our second semester. We were concerned that going back home to the USA would bring back feelings of comfort and make it hard to leave, but we have grown to love Taiwan. Don’t worry Moms, we definitely love being home but we are excited to finish out the year strong. Being home was the refreshment we needed to come back to Taipei and accomplish our goals. With all that being said, Happy Chinese New Year! Let the year of the Ram begin!

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Kyle and Sarah

A Humbling Experience in Cambodia

Hello from Taipei Taoyuan International Airport! Not to rub it in or anything but today is a comfortable 60 degrees, while yesterday we were sitting at the pool in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 90 degree weather! We’ll soak it up before we hit the freezingness of Grand Rapids, MI tomorrow.

So Cambodia…this was always a Southeast Asian country that never really caught my attention. I never had a huge urge to visit, even though my brother, Jordy and Alec Green told me it was an amazing place. Cambodia is definitely on the Southeast Asian backpacker trail, although not as popular as the fan favorites of Thailand and Vietnam. I have to say Cambodia blew both Sarah and me away. From the second we hopped on that tuk-tuk, the main mode of transport, in the dusty capital of Phnom Penh, we knew this was going to be a trip for the books.

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It’s amazing to Sarah and me how different countries can be even when they do share a border. We expected Cambodia to be very similar to Thailand. Though the climate and landscape were similar, they couldn’t have been more different. Bangkok, Thailand is a massive city that is home to many multinational companies, huge skyscrapers, and in general, has a very modern infrastructure. Cambodia, and Phnom Penh more specifically, was much different. This city was edgy. It was flat, dirty, and intimidating. This city was much different than anything I had encountered before. See, Cambodia is extremely poor. Most full-time workers make between $60-$100USD per month. You can just imagine the extreme poverty that was ever-present. Right outside our hotel were families living in cardboard boxes, tiny children digging through trash cans, with rats basically running over their feet. It was sad.

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Through the poverty, the Cambodian people were happy and genuine. I think that is what made the trip so wonderful. The begging was present, but we never thought we were getting totally ripped off. We felt the Cambodian people were honest, genuine people…which can be rare.

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We spent our time in Phnom Penh touring the brilliant Royal Palace along the riverside, perfecting our haggling skills at the stuffy Russian Market, and learning about the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

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The Killing Fields. What a humbling experience for us. This alone gave us a whole new perspective on Cambodia as a whole. Every person we passed on the street, in one way or another, has been affected by the Khmer Rouge. The population of Cambodia before the takeover of the Khmer Rouge was roughly 8 million people. The Khmer Rouge was in power for 4 years, during which, 2-3 million people were brutally murdered and thrown into pits. That’s 1 in 4 people who were killed, only 35 years ago. The Killing Fields are now a museum for Cambodians and foreigners alike to join together to learn and pay respect to the millions of people who lost their lives in this horrific genocide.

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After Phnom Penh we made the 7 hour, bumpy bus ride to the Northern city of Siem Reap. Let’s just say that “bumpy,” was an understatement. The “road,” to Siem Reap was hardly a road. To put it lightly, it was an insane bus ride. The traffic in Cambodia is ridiculous and there are literally no road signs and virtually no road rules. Buses take charge because they are the biggest and if you’re in the way…well you’re screwed. We breathed a sigh of relief when we got off the bus in Siem Reap, home to the world famous, Angkor Wat. This was the reason we originally wanted to go to Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and it is absolutely breathtaking. We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day and woke up at the buttcrack of dawn to see the infamous sunrise over Angkor Wat.

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The Angkor temples were built in the 11th century and were considered to be pioneering for the times in architecture and detail. It was simply magnificent. The sheer size and detail that went into these temples, and specifically Angkor Wat, was just mind-blowing. We spent the day climbing the steps of the temples and really trying to grasp the architecture of such amazing workmanship. Again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Our last few days were spent lounging at the pool and enjoying the night markets of Siem Reap. This country is about as cheap as it gets. You can never go wrong with a 50 cent draught of the local Angkor brew, 1 hour full body massage for $3, or a snake on a stick 🙂

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We’re officially on our way home. We are super excited to see our families and friends back home and devour a plate of the Dungeon’s chips n’ cheese 🙂 See you soon!

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Kyle and Sarah

Opening Sibling Doors to Taiwan

Hello readers!

It’s time for a new post. Time is just flying by over here. We just wrapped up our first semester of teaching and are officially on our Chinese New Year break. YAY! It’s going to be so nice to have some time off of school to travel and make our way back to good ol’ GR for a couple of weeks.

So tomorrow, my brother and sister head home after two weeks in Thailand and two weeks with us in Taipei. It’s been a blast showing them around Taipei! Jordy and Brittni had two full weeks here so we were able to add a few more places to see on our “visitors itinerary.”

One of Jordy’s top things to do in Taiwan was to get out to the mountains and waterfalls outside of Taipei. I’ve said it before, but Taiwan really has some amazing natural wonders to see. It’s a hikers paradise and there are countless trails to explore. Jordy wanted to checkout three waterfalls known as the Sandiaoling waterfalls near Pingxi. We hopped on the train to the tiny town of Sandiaoling and caught the trailhead. It was a great hike. It wasn’t insanely strenuous but had some areas that kept it interesting. There were a few rope climbs, branch ladders, and slippery trails that kept us on our feet. The three waterfalls were amazing and we were even able to climb along a cave to get behind one of them. We ended the day in the small town of Pingxi which is home to the world famous lantern festival. As Chinese New Year is right around the corner, the town was full of people writing their wishes and goals on the large lanterns and letting them fly off into the sky. Perfect way to spend the day.

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Have you ever seen Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover: Taipei? If you haven’t, you should watch it. Anyways, Anthony visited some very far-out restaurants that Jordy and Brittni wanted to visit. The first restaurant wasn’t as far-out as the second, but the theme of the first restaurant was school buses. The restaurant served traditional Taiwanese food, but we got to sit and eat in old school buses.

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The second restaurant was strange. Brittni had been wanting to go this restaurant ever since she heard of it. Modern Toilet….a restaurant dedicated to toilets and poop. You also got to pick..the traditional toilet bowl or the Taiwanese style squatty potty. I went for chicken curry in the traditional toilet bowl, while we all ate our poop desert served in squatty potties!

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Our last discovery came yesterday. One of the top things to do in Taipei is climb Elephant Mountain to get a jaw-dropping panorama of Taipei. It’s a must-see, but it’s always stuffed with people. It’s hard to get a good view without someone’s head or a tripod blocking the view. We decided to try and find the trail to Tiger Mountain. The trail started at a beautiful Chinese temple and climbed upwards along the Tiger Mountain crest. The trail opened up to an absolutely stunning panorama of Taipei. Best thing about it? Not a soul was there. Now, yesterday was sunny and 70 degrees on a Saturday…you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day to hike and get a view of the 101. It was early so we kept on hiking along the trail and it eventually ended at Elephant Mountain. Just as we thought, it was packed. We promptly turned around and headed back to the Tiger Mountain view point. We were able to watch the sunset and see the city lights come to life all by ourselves!

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The rest of the week was spent showing them our favorite spots such as the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Shilin night market, and of our course introducing them to our family at the Neihu night market. It’s so hard to just eat and leave at our night market, especially on the weekends. All of our buddies are hanging out and who wouldn’t want to meet the blonde haired foreigners? We ended that night with the Taiwanese guys inviting us out for KTV, or karaoke. Oh boy. KTV has been on my bucket list since we arrived in Taiwan, but I knew it could get rowdy. We sang our hearts out until 5am with the local Taiwanese guys and it was so much fun 🙂

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It was a great few weeks having my brother and sister here. We really get to spend quality time with our families when they visit and we’re very thankful for these opportunities. Luckily for Sarah and me, we’ll be home soon! We take off for Cambodia for a few days, then we’re homeward bound. Looking forward to the next few weeks!

Kyle and Sarah

 

 

Thailand, the Land of Smiles สวัสดี ครับ

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Thailand. The land of smiles. A country filled with mouth-watering, chili-induced food, breathtaking scenery, and chaotic but colorful cities. Yes. This was the perfect place for a little vacation.

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My brother and sister took off on their month long Asia tour 2 days before the New Year and started it off in the sprawling, sweltering heat of Bangkok, Thailand. Sarah and I decided what the hay, let’s take a few days off from school and meet them there. To all of the readers of this blog and our Facebook friends, it probably looks like we’re just on a giant vacation, but in reality, teaching is exhausting. Not in a bad way, but we were definitely ready for a few days off.

So we happily took the 3.5 hour flight to Bangkok and we couldn’t have been more excited. Finally we could get some much needed vitamin D, but more importantly, we were ecstatic to see Jordy and Brittni.

We started out Thailand right. A tower of the local Chang brew, and the most famous dish and equally tasty, Pad Thai on what is probably the most famous backpacker street in the world, Khao San Road. You can literally find/do/eat anything you want on this hippie, dreadlocked backpackers road. From dirt cheap elephant T-shirts and questionable food stalls, to bamboo tattoo shops, forged diplomas, and fried scorpions on a stick, to seedy trance clubs, and the constant “would you like a massage?” from the rather manly looking girl on the corner…you can literally find it all. The road is electric with energy, although maybe a few too many people who had a few too many Changs. Other than that, it’s a great place to soak up the backpacking vibe and acclimate to the sensory overload of a vibrant Southeast Asian country.

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The following day we took a short 1 hour flight to the Western, coastal town of Krabi. Krabi is the gateway to the postcard perfect islands of Thailand. Jordy and I had done quite a bit of research before arriving in Thailand and decided that Tonsai Bay and Railay beach would be ideal places to stay. After a longtail boat ride to Tonsai Bay, we were ready to chill. And we did just that. Tonsai Bay is a rock climbers paradise. The beach is surrounded by massive limestone cliffs scattered with carabiners and quick draws for the people to climb. It’s a laid back island. There’s not  a whole lot to do past dark. There’s a couple bars and restaurants but it’s mostly quiet. We played some euchre and caught up on life with our siblings.

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We rented a longtail boat and driver for a day and island hopped to Koh Poda, Chicken island, Koh Tup, and Phranang Cave. Freaking paradise. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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We headed back to Krabi to catch a boat to Koh Phi Phi. Before the boat, we needed to fulfill one of Brittni’s lifelong dreams of riding an elephant. We trampled through the jungle on huge elephants and it was awesome.

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Koh Phi Phi is one of the most famous islands in Thailand and rightfully so. The water looks fake it’s so blue and the beaches are impressive. It’s also incredibly touristy. Thousands of tattooed sleeved students on their gap years partying their brains out gets a little old. It was fun to get a change of pace from the chillout-ness of Tonsai, but it was loud on Phi Phi. All that aside, it was fun. It was fun to watch drunken white guy try out their Muay Thai, or Thai kickboxing skills on each other in the ring. It was fun watching the bamboo tattoo shops fill to the brim with people wanting a permanent souvenir from Thailand…after drinking a lethal bucket of Thai whiskey and red bull. Not a good idea. Luckily we didn’t see anyone with a Mike Tyson face tattoo.

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We took a longtail boat tour to Monkey beach, dove off a 12 meter cliff, and visited Maya Bay, which has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

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Now, when you see a longtail boat, “safe,” or “unsinkable,” are not words that come to mind right away, but after our ride back to the island, those words turned out to be true. We noticed at Maya Bay that it was getting cloudier and real windy. We didn’t think much of it at first, but after we started making our way back, we realized this was going to be a very interesting ride. Let’s just say we were surrounded by 15 foot rolling waves and our measly longtail, who’s greasy engine looked older than dirt, was barely carving through them. It was scary. Jordy was freaking out, Brittni and Sarah were doing the laugh cry and I just couldn’t believe we were about to capsize and drown. Thankfully our driver was a BOSS. We made it back soaked to the core, but safe and sound!

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Our last 2 days were spent in Bangkok walking through Buddha temples and sitting at the riverside. Our last night, my roommate from studying in Taiwan, Filip, met up with us. I’m always amazed that we live on different continents but still run into each other once or twice a year. Great times.

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All in all it was a great vacation. It was so nice to spend time with my bro and sis in Thailand. Now back to Taipei we go. It’s going to be a fun 2 weeks showing them around Taipei!

Peace!

聖誕節快樂!Merry Christmas!

Hey everyone!

Don’t worry we’re still alive 🙂 sorry for not posting earlier. We’ve been very busy with Christmas and all the festivities!

Where to begin? I’ll start out with saying that it was a very different Christmas for us here in Taipei. It was tough being away from our families during such a wonderful time of the year. On the other hand, it was a great opportunity for Sarah and I to really focus on each other and most importantly, the TRUE meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ. We’ve really been diving into His Word and really focusing on following His plans for us. It’s an exciting point in our lives as a couple 🙂

Anyways, back to the festivities. Unfortunately, while you were all pigging out on steak and drinking egg nog, we were teaching the wonderful children of Taiwan. Yea, Christmas isn’t an official holiday here. That was rough. Luckily, our school threw a Christmas party for the kids. We sang songs, had a talent show, and did a gift exchange. I was even able to dress up as Santa Clause!

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We weren’t able to personally give gifts to family and friends at home, but as you’ve seen from previous posts, we’ve become really close to our night market family. The three little boys are so cute and we wanted to give them some gifts. We hooked them up with some sticky balls, airplanes, swords, masks and other toys. It was so fun watching their little faces light up as they unwrapped the toys. We spent Christmas Day hanging out with our “family” in Taiwan. We couldn’t ask for anything better while we’re here.

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Now, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without spending it with our real families. Thank goodness for skype! We got our butts out of bed early so we could spend Christmas with them via skype. It was almost like the real thing. We took turns opening our stockings and gifts and had just as much fun as we would have had at home. Dad, you’d be proud. I even had Sarah do a scavenger hunt for her presents 🙂 We would like to thank all our friends and family who sent us Christmas cards, gifts, notes, and star wars chopsticks! You’ve all made us feel very special this Christmas away.

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We have an exciting few weeks ahead of us! My brother and sister are on their way to Asia as I type this blog. We will be meeting them in Thailand for a nice vacation and then they will be coming back with us to Taiwan for a couple weeks! Although it’s hard being away from family, we’ve been fortunate to have families take the time to come visit us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Kyle and Sarah

Opening Mom and Dad Door to Asia

Yo!

2 weeks ago we had the Brower invasion here in Taipei and the day they left for home, we were able to open the parent Doors to Asia! My Mom and Dad came to visit us in Taipei last week 🙂

My parents have had an interest in Taiwan ever since I studied abroad here in 2011. They’ve seen the pictures, heard the stories, watched the Anthony Bourdain episode, and decided it was now or never! My Dad agrees with me whole heartedly when it comes to visiting a new place….get the inside track. After 4 months of living in Taiwan, we’ve got it down pretty well.

Just like the Brower’s, the Door’s took the long trip from GR to Taipei and landed at Taoyuan International Airport. I was there to welcome them to Taiwan and get them back to our place. It’s fun to see everyone’s faces when they get out of the airport and take the taxi into downtown Taipei. They’ve all been traveling for 24 hours and should be dead tired, but when I look back from the passenger seat, all I see are big, wide eyes and looks of pure wonder as they gaze out the windows at an untrodden place. What a rush!

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Dad, you’re going to be mad, but I need to start with a little preface before getting into more detail. Randy Door, for those of you who don’t know him, is my Father. He likes to know where he is, he loves meeting new people, and likes to know where his food is coming from. He does not like getting clobbered by scooters, roaming around second-tier foreign cities, or getting lost in a sea of people. Welcome to Taiwan, Dad…This should be fun 😉 Going into the trip, I knew my Dad would be faced with some uncomfortable situations. Who wouldn’t? He could have been on Mars for all he knew. Although it was hard for him to talk to people, and scooters always seemed to miss him by a hair, we’re confident he had a great time here!

Back to the week. Sarah and I showed my parents a lot of the same things as the Brower’s because they are the most popular things to see in Taiwan. Unlike the Brower’s, we didn’t go anywhere too far away, so we were able to spend some more time around Taipei and nearby cities.

Our first day started with the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and Elephant Mountain. I’ve mentioned Chiang Kai Shek in previous posts, so I won’t elaborate anymore on that, but Elephant Mountain is a must-see for any visitor to Taipei. After taking the MRT to the end of the red line, it’s a 30 minute walk and a 30 minute stair climb to a breathtaking view of Taipei. The weather in Taipei right now can’t decide what it wants to do. One day it’s freezing and rainy, the next it’s scorching and humid! This particular day was scorching and humid…it was a long, sweaty 30 minute stair climb. Good thing the views are worth every drop of sweat!

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We were trying to think of a day trip we could do that wasn’t too far away from Taipei, yet different. Keelung was the perfect choice….or so we thought 🙂 My parents arrived late Friday night and Saturday was the pretty classic sightseeing day. Monday was Keelung. I had been to Keelung during my first stint in Taipei so I was pretty familiar with it, but I didn’t realize how culture-shocking it could be for people who have barely left the US. We got off the bus to high winds and rain on a side street full of little Chinese shops and food stands. WHAM.

IMG_3116 IMG_3121 IMG_3150 IMG_3172I should say something about my Mom here, too. My Mom is pretty even keeled. She’s not as vocal about being uncomfortable, she just likes to soak it all in. I think I get my adventurous side from her. She may have been just as uncomfortable in Keelung as my Dad, but she took it in like a champ!

Keelung was fun. We were able to check out the famous seafood night market, although the famous lanterns weren’t lit up 😦 We made my parents try sushi and even got them to eat some night market food. I’m glad we took this trip as it was eye-opening for them and got them further out of their comfort zone. Great experience in Taiwan.

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The rest of the week was spent showing them our favorite spots in Taipei. We took them to our favorite restaurants, our night market, Shilin night market, and went to my old stomping grounds in Gongguan/Shida where I went to school. I have to say it was nice to get my Mom back for all the torture she put me through growing up with eating…”Mom, you have to sit there until you finish your plate!!” 🙂 We soaked in the hot springs of Beitou, and took them up to one of the Brower’s favorite spots, Maokong, also known as Tea Mountain. We also took them to our favorite temple, Bishan Temple and hiked around the mountains of Neihu.

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Having our families visit us in Taiwan was awesome. It was so fun to catch up with everyone and show them our lives in Taipei. The two trips were also very different. With the Brower’s, it was fun sampling all the crazy food and hanging out with our night market buddies. With my family, it was fun showing them a completely new place. We loved having visitors!

Now we have 3 weeks before we head out to Thailand to meet my brother and sister! We will be traveling in Thailand together for 10 days and they will becoming back to Taipei! Going to be a great few weeks again 🙂

Kyle and Sarah

 

 

The Brower Invasion!

2 weeks late…I know. Good thing we have a really good excuse. We had a fantastic week last week! After 3 months of Sarah and I hanging out all by ourselves, everyday, every minute….every second, we finally got some visitors! Don’t get me wrong, Sarah and I love hanging out together, but it was nice to have some others around 🙂 Sarah’s sister Abby, brother Matt, and sister-in-law Lara, made the long trip from Michigan to Taipei, Taiwan to visit us!

They landed on Tuesday night at Taoyuan International airport. I picked them up from the airport as the taxi drivers never know how to get to our apartment. Granted, we do live on a tiny, hidden street, the taxi drivers just never know how to get our place.  Landing in a completely foreign country after 24 hours of travel and getting lost in an enormous city isn’t on anyone’s top list of fun things to do. Well, we made it back fine and started the week off with a family-style Chinese meal at one of our favorite restaurants. The Brower clan did very well with the chopsticks, but were a tad apprehensive about the food. Great start to a very fun-filled week!

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The first full day consisted of showing the family the ins and outs of daily life for us in our slice of Taipei. We started the day with one of the most popular drinks in Taiwan and staple for any visit to the country, bubble milk tea. Sarah and I could drink this everyday, but apparently it’s a bit of an acquired taste as the Brower’s were a little weirded out by the bubbles. We visited our local day market, parks, and lakes around our area. Abby was even able to experience the SQUATTY POTTY! Definitely need to have good aim. It was a very nice introduction to a very unfamiliar country for our visitors.

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The next few days were spent from riding the famous Gondola up to Tea Mountain to taste the different teas (Lara’s favorite!), to learning about Chiang Kai Shek’s leadership at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial.  The girls also shopped to their hearts desires at the clothing market and we savored the legendary snacks at Shilin Night Market.

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Taiwan’s number one tourist attraction is Taroko Gorge. It is a beautiful George. It’s an incredible scenic 2.5 hour train ride through mountains and hills the eastern side of Taiwan. Taroko Gorge offers stunning views of the Liwu river that cuts through the marble rock of the gorge. The trails are plentiful, and views are abundant. As I always say, Taiwan has some of the best natural beauty in the whole world…as you can tell by the following photos!

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Instead of staying in a hostel near Taroko Gorge, we decided to stay in a second tier city in Taiwan called Hualien. I love the smaller cities. They have such a different/foreign feel to them. After a full day of hiking and sightseeing, we were ready to get to our hostel. Matt booked a great hostel called the Secret Base. Sounded sketchy, but we couldn’t pass up a room with 3 big beds all lined up!

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We had fun exploring Hualien, although I’ve come to notice the Brower’s develop hangriness. A new word I invented.. when someone gets so hungry that they get angry. Watch out. Everyone wanted a break from Chinese food, but no one wanted to admit it, so everyone was getting hangrier and hangrier. Luckily, we found a decent place to eat that satisfied everyone’s hangriness!

Friday night couldn’t have been spent any other way….with our local night market buddies. As you’ve read from previous posts, we’ve become very good friends with the people at our night market. Matt, Lara, and Abby needed to experience the Taiwanese hospitality. Let’s just say we ate some very strange food that night. You can’t push it away either, because every time you turn around a new plate is put in front of you and everyone wants to see you eat their dish! We ate everything from clams, snails, and dumplings to peanut rolls, fried squid, and oyster pie. Have you ever had that feeling in your throat where you’re about to throw up? Your cheeks expand and you start to heave a little? Yea, the oyster cakes were not good.

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As a lesson learned from 2 weeks prior, I warned everyone to stay away from the Taiwanese liquor. Everyone agreed that that was a good idea, but we slowly watched everyone else get a little friendlier and friendlier. By the end of the night, we had given everyone an English name and we were getting kissed from literally every single person! It was definitely the most memorable night for us…you never know what’s going to happen at the good ol’ night market. 🙂

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It was such a fun week having the Brower’s in Taipei. We laughed our butt’s off, tried betel nut with the locals, and even got the crap scared out of us by an earthquake! It was a super busy week, but there was so much to see! I’m sure we’ll be reminiscing about this trip for the next 50 years 🙂

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A Bit of the Local Life

Yo,

Great week this week! We also have a couple super exciting weeks coming ahead as we are getting visitors! Sarah’s brother, sister-in-law, and sister will be in Taipei on Tuesday, and my parents will be here the week after they leave. We are so pumped to have family visit!

So there was this place that I had been dying to go to. This place is actually pretty close to our apartment, just never went! I never would have thought that HARLEY DAVIDSON would be in Taipei, let alone a 15 minute walk from our house! I definitely miss riding with the guys, so it was fun to drool over all the bikes.

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As you know, we’ve really been enjoying our local night market. A couple posts ago we introduced you to our favorite cook, Terry. This past week we officially gave him that English name…he just looks like a Terry, doesn’t he? Well this past week we got to know him really well because our friend Yvonne joined us for supper. Terry speaks Chinese very fast, so it’s hard for me to have a legitimate conversation with him. Thankfully Yvonne was there to lend a hand. A group of Terry’s friends were also eating and drinking at his place and we were invited to join in the festivities. Let’s just say these guys knew how to throw back their 高粱酒 (the local liquor), and were more than excited to be sharing it with their new American friends. Long story short, my Chinese became quite good and everyone had a great time 🙂

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Clams and steam roasted/soggy peanuts.

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That is pig intestine. How does that look Sarah? Turned about to be a little rubbery…

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Sarah and Terry. Terry is a BOSS.

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Our night market kiddo’s!

We also took an unexpected trip to the coastal town, Danshui. Danshui is a small town about an hour MRT ride from Taipei. You could compare it to Holland or Grand Haven for all you Michiganders. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, but it was fun to walk around the waterfront and sample the local burning squid! As I always say, it’s nice to get out of Taipei from time to time. It can be so easy to just stay in Taipei, but Taiwan has so much to offer outside of Taipei!

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We ended the week with a home cooked meal with Yvonne’s family! After eating out so much over the past 3 months, it was so nice to eat a home cooked meal! Yvonne’s mom made so many dishes and each one was delicious!

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Beef, shredded pork, bamboo chutes, edamame, oysters, Chinese vegetables, fish, tofu, chilies, and some others I’m probably forgetting…but so yummy!

Stay tuned for an exciting blog post next week!

Kyle and Sarah

 

 

Hoppy November

Hey all,

Today is officially the 3 month mark. We packed up and came to Taiwan 3 months ago…time sure does fly. November is going to be a super fun month for us. Sarah’s brother, sister, and sister-in-law are visiting in a week and a half! Then the day they leave, my parents are visiting. It’s going to be a blast showing our families our life in Taipei. My brother and sister also booked their tickets to come visit in January! It’s going to be awesome.

Nothing huge happened this week. We started the open houses at school this week, which was pretty nerve-wracking. The parents of the kids come sit in the classroom and watch us teach for 45 minutes. Awkward turtle! Afterwards, we have to sit with the parents and our school director to talk about the kids. It’s not one on one like the parent/teacher conferences are back at home. It’s tough to talk about each kid while every other parent is listening. You want to tell each parent how their kid is doing, but you have to be careful not to insult the other kids. It’s just different, weird, and a little awkward. On the other hand, it was really nice to meet the parents and see their concern for their kids learning. Thankfully I can sit back and relax because I’m done! Sarah has all three of hers yet 🙂

Tuesday night we went to a place called The Brass Monkey to meet up with my old classmate from the Mandarin Training Center from my first time in Taiwan. He’s working in Shanghai but comes to Taiwan frequently to see his girlfriend. It was great to see him and catch up!

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Sarah was able to learn a little salsa dancing from a local Taiwanese guy haha.

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This weekend we decided to explore some more of the hiking trails in Neihu. We found the waterfall we were looking for last time and did some river trekking as well. It’s so nice to be able to walk to the trailheads and escape the hustle and bustle of Taipei.

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We also checked out one of the few breweries in Taipei. Beer and Cheese sells the best beer we’ve come across in Taipei. They had just finished brewing the hoppiest IPA Taiwan has ever seen and I was able to get the first taste of the first keg! It was delicious.

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I also love sitting on the shore of Bihu lake with my beautiful wife at night 🙂

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Have a great week!

Kyle and Sarah